The Boston that I used to know

The recent bombing of the Boston Marathon that shook the world brought back a flood of sweet memories to this sentimental septuagenarian. It was in the late 1960s when I first set foot in Boston, and it was, for me, love at first sight. After my pediatric residency in New York, I had the chance of a lifetime to be selected as a Grant Foundation Fellow in adolescent medicine at the Harvard Medical School.

Boston was then a quiet and charming university town. Students were everywhere, reading books, biking to classes, or just strolling along the tree-lined Longwood Avenue where the medical school was located, just beside the world-famed Children’s Hospital of Boston.

The two years that I lived in the city might as well be 20, for during that time, I was able to absorb the very essence of being a proper Bostonian, so to speak.

Boston is a cosmopolitan city with its residents, mostly students and academics, coming from all over the world. Regarded as the first settlement in the New World, it is replete with historical landmarks, monuments, art museums, theaters and music halls. It’s the undisputed center of culture and learning in America.

As one gets older, one tends to look back to the past that has molded and transformed one into what he or she is today. That’s exactly how I feel these days. Sweet memories of Boston would come unbidden during my quiet moments.

Each Sunday morning after the worship service at the old Park Street Church in whose backyard are the resting places of Benjamin Franklin and Paul Revere, among others, we would take a breather at the nearby Boston Common. We’d sit on one of the many park benches and read the Boston Globe. The

hippies were all over the place in those days, and they would always congregate at the frog pond on one side of the beautiful park. In the spring, the whole park would be abloom with magnolias, bright-red geraniums, daffodils, tulips and brilliant-yellow forsythias. Right across from the park is Beacon Hill where the government offices are located, lorded over by the magnificent state capitol with its golden dome.

In the summer, the Boston Pops Orchestra under the baton of the great conductor Arthur Fiedler would perform at free concerts held in the open air at the Shell along the banks of the Charles River. Hundreds of music lovers would spread all sizes of blankets on the grounds, where they could recline and, in rapt attention, enjoy the sublime music of Maestro Fiedler under the stars.

The downtown area where we always shopped is just a few meters away from the Boston Common. There, we would always go to the famous Filene’s basement store where we could buy our wardrobe and what-have-you at such low, low prices! Imagine, we could have name-brand shirts and neckties for a dollar each! On rare occasions when we felt like splurging, we’d hie off to the classy shops of Brooks Brothers and Lord & Taylor.

There were occasions when our group would go to the Fenway Stadium, which is home to the renowned Boston Red Sox. Their enthusiasm and love for baseball were so very infectious, to say the least. We were there when the Red Sox clinched the World Series championship in 1969. The whole city was agog and there was pandemonium everywhere. It was really unbelievable how Bostonians could be so crazy about baseball.

And who would forget the rib-tickling annual Hasty Pudding show in Cambridge? We were privileged to witness the show twice during my stay in Boston. Once a year, the frat men at Harvard College would dress in drag and present an hour of musical revue in the genre of burlesque, lampooning both notorious and controversial political figures of the time. The shows were enjoyable and just terrific, considering that all the performers were amateurs.

The things I have missed since I returned to the Philippines a long time ago are the four seasons. A Boston winter is often severe, but it transforms the whole city into a veritable winter wonderland. Spring is simply irresistible, what with the riot of colors. Despite the warm weather, summer is a fun time made memorable by picnics, outings and outdoor concerts.

But the most affable time as far as we are concerned is in the fall. Boston is best during autumn as the trees transform their foliage in glorious “technicolor”—yellow, gold, auburn and russet. During my stay there, it was always an amazing sight to behold, and I could only mutter again and again to myself, “What a beautiful world!” Indeed, sweet memories are made of these!

Dr. Floriño A. Francisco, 73, is a pediatrician based in Cabanatuan City, a freelance feature writer, and a recipient of the 2010 Topics (The Most Outstanding Physician in Community Service) Award. He is a son of National Artist Lazaro Francisco and is the founding chair of Lingap-Bata Medical Mission.